Are grades a true reflection of effort?

The entire purpose of a public school education is to broaden our concepts and understanding of the world, and how to function within it.

Then there is the concept of grades, which in theory, should depict our understanding of the material, as well as our ability to retain knowledge. With this in mind, if grades are meant to be a reflection of our competency in the class, I wonder why is there such an emphasis on grades over learning.

I feel that in many classes I am only being taught what will be covered on a test and not actually learning anything of relevance. While I support this model in AP classes where the goal is to be able to pass an exam at the end of the year for college credit, in a typical high school class this is an awful system. The entire purpose of a class is to teach us skills and information that will serve us for the rest of our lives. If we only retain this information for two weeks or until shortly after we are tested over it, then this entire concept is redundant.

I feel that one of the school’s biggest priorities is test scores. They are more concerned with how we perform at a specific moment instead of being concerned with the continuation and expansion of higher level thought. I understand that having a certain amount of students score in certain ranges looks good for a school, but when did this take precedence over actually preparing students for their future?

Additionally this new concept creates a higher stress level for students. Students become far more concerned with their grades and trying to keep their GPA up that they no longer care about actually committing the information that they are being taught to memory.

The focus on GPA, especially in preparation for college and scholarship applications creates so much unnecessary stress for students that if they were able to focus on their learning instead of their grades they would process more information and be generally more prepared for the future.